from his childhood in New Brunswick, Canada.
He had gotten into a fight at school when he was quite a small boy,
And he was feeling bitter, filled with resentment
And a desire for revenge.
His body hurt, but his mind hurt more.
And when he got home,
he was muttering threats about what he would do
To the other kid if he ever got the chance.
The older boys were helping him
build his vocabulary on that subject.
His mother didn’t seem to be paying any particular attention
And went around her work in her usual serene manner.
She was a gentle woman who loved God
And never doubted that God was guiding every part of their lives.
The next day they were out in the country on a family picnic,
And she called Louis aside:
"Louis, come here a moment. I want to show you something."
She took him to a little clearing that faced a rugged,
towering mountain on all sides.
"Now, Louis," she told him, "say what I heard you say yesterday."
Louis began to feel embarrassed and he protested:
"But I don’t remember saying anything wrong."
His mother persisted:
"I do," she replied. "You said ‘Damn you!’"
He couldn’t keep anything from his mother, and they both knew it.
"Yes, I remember now," he said.
She touched his arm gently.
"Say it now," she commanded.
Louis repeated it as quietly as he could.
His mother smiled patiently.
"Louder, son, say it louder. Whatever you say,
you must be willing to say it as loud as you can,
to shout it for all to hear."
He didn’t want to do it,
but it never occurred to him to disobey his mother.
So he faced the mountains and he shouted
at the top of his lungs:
Right back it came, like thunder. Like a voice from heaven it denounced him.
Now, said his mother. Try it another way. Say, "Bless you!" instead.
Louis took a long breath and yelled, "Bless you!"
Back it came at him, strong and clear and welcome: "Bless you!"
"Which do you prefer, son?" his mother asked.
"It’s entirely up to you.
Whatever you say to others and to the world returns to you.
Your life creates an echo.
Choose you this day, whom you will serve.
You can choose to bless,
or you can choose to curse.
Every day, every hour, You have that choice, Louis."
Years later, Louis Mayer had a bad accident
that nearly killed him.
For many weeks, the doctors didn’t know if he would live.
He lay in the hospital bed in pain and misery
And heard his mother’s voice again:
"You will have your choice as long as you live."
He pondered what he should give the echo to give back to him,
And he said to himself,
"I am not afraid to die, but I want to live."
The last word, live, echoed back to him,
strong and clear in his mind.
Live! It multiplied into life and strength and power.
As he recovered his strength, he knew he was getting back
The exact echo of what he had put in.
If he had put in hatred, meanness, and revenge,
He would get them back.
If he tried to speak love, kindness, forgiveness,
they would be returned to him like an echo.
Louis B. Mayer, "The Echo,"The Guideposts Anthology, ed. Norman Vincent Peale (Pawling, NY: Guideposts Associates, 1953) pp. 209-212.
Related Text Illustrations
Contributed by Brian Mavis on Oct 30, 2000
Contributed by Paul Fritz on Oct 18, 2000
One Italian man became so frustrated with his wife’s badgering that he had himself arrested just to have one night’s peace in a jail cell. However, ten minutes after being securely locked away for the night because of pretending to be publicly intoxicated